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Two retired officers on Groton City Council critical of police study

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published November 19. 2013 4:00AM

Groton - Two retired veteran police officers serving on the City Council on Monday criticized the recommendations of a recently released police study.

The Police Executive Research Forum's study of Groton's three departments urged the town and city to consolidate dispatch and jail services and to collaborate on criminal and narcotics investigations.

Thomas Wilson, deputy director of management services for the consultant, also told the Town Council on Nov. 7, that "you can't dismiss a discussion of merging these agencies," even though it was beyond the scope of the study. But he said such a move would be a community decision.

City Councilor William Jervis, a retired lieutenant of the Town Police Department, told the council Monday that consolidating jail services would not save money because city dispatchers already watch the prisoners among their many duties.

He also said the dispatchers perform important tasks, handling emergency calls, plus calls to the routine seven-digit police phone number and staffing the station.

"Police departments are a sanctuary for people," Jervis said. "It's a place where people can go at 3 in the morning if someone's chasing them."

He added that a victim of a sexual assault for example, probably wouldn't call the station or request an officer to the house, but would show up in person. Finding the station door locked could discourage the person trying to report the crime, he said.

City Councilor Larry Gerrish, a former city police chief, said having the town and city share jail cells offers no benefit. Gerrish said before the city had its own cells, it sometimes took two officers to transport a violent prisoner to the town, and then the city was left unprotected.

"The officers being available 24/7 is more important than maybe saving a few dollars," Gerrish said. He said he also opposes combining dispatch services.

City Mayor Marian Galbraith said she would ask for a joint meeting of the City Council and newly elected Groton Town Council after members are sworn in, to discuss the study recommendations. Galbraith said she wants to discuss the issues separately from the upcoming budget discussions.

She said she would also seek a meeting with the writers of the study to get questions answered.

City Councilor Andrew Ilvento said he's never heard anyone say they want fewer police in Groton City. He said the study found both departments were staffed to provide core services without extras.

"I think it's become more of a political issue than an issue of reality," he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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